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Glustein v. Koparkar Judicial Board hearing held on General Assembly BoD ratification vote

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(Kendall McGowan / The McGill Tribune)

At a hearing held on Nov. 30, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Judicial Board (J-Board) committed to delivering a verdict in the case of Glustein v. Koparkar by Dec. 31. The hearing concerned a dispute over the constitutionality of a motion passed at the at the Oct. 23 Fall 2017 General Assembly (GA) that divided the ratification of appointments to the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) Board of Directors (BoD) into a separate vote for each appointee. BoD appointments are typically ratified by GAs as a single ticket, with members-at-large voting either yes or no to the collective ratification of all appointees. However, because of the motion to divide the question, only seven of the 10 BoD appointments voted on by the GA were ratified, with the remaining three rejected. While the seven Directors whose appointments were ratified at the GA were supposed to begin their terms on Nov. 15, a J-Board interim decision to extend the terms of the previous 12 Directors indefinitely remains in effect.

The Dec. 31 deadline for the J-Board’s verdict means that deliberations will last more than double the 14-day timeline that the J-Board typically allots for cases. At the hearing, Justice Samuil Stoychev explained that the complex nature of the case has delayed their verdict. All decisions made by the J-Board must be ratified by the BoD—who have already had their last meeting of the semester—a conflict which Stoychev acknowledged at the close of the trial.

“We’re worried the decision will be overturned by the BoD either way if it is rushed,” Stoychev said. “It’s very likely the decision won’t be actionable until next semester anyway.”

After protesting the motion to divide the BoD appointments at the GA, BoD member-at-large Jonathan Glustein submitted a petition to the J-Board which listed SSMU Vice-President (VP) Internal Maya Koparkar—who originally moved the motion—and former SSMU Legislative Council speaker Jad El-Tal—who, as speaker, allowed the motion to be moved and voted on—as respondents. In his petition, Glustein alleged that the division of the ratification votes was unconstitutional, and requested the J-Board nullify their results.

At the hearing, Koparkar, who also sits on the BoD, explained that her motion was an attempt to increase the legitimacy of BoD appointments and alleviate SSMU members’ concerns about their undemocratic nature. Koparkar noted that, in response to these concerns, the SSMU Legislative Council also chose to vote on the Directors’ appointments individually.

“The motion was not targeted to remove specific Board members, and I didn’t think it would cease being more than a procedural matter, like the bloc vote,” Koparkar said. “I didn’t expect three Directors to be rejected. I had no way of knowing. My own spot was in jeopardy too.”

Noah Lew, a current member-at-large on the BoD and one of the appointees rejected by the GA, made a viral Facebook post claiming that the failure of his ratification was the result of anti-semitic sentiment at McGill.

“I was blocked from being able to participate in my student government because I am Jewish, because I have been affiliated with Jewish organizations, and because I believe in the right to Jewish self-determination,” Lew wrote.

Glustein and his counsel Nikolas De Stefano, a McGill Law student from the Legal Information Clinic, argued that section 6.5 of the SSMU Constitution requires appointments to the BoD to be ratified as a bloc. They also argued that sections 6.9 and 6.10, which list the conditions under which a Director can be removed and replaced, do not include their appointment failing to be ratified at a GA. Additionally, De Stefano argued the Constitution does not require the BoD to be an elected body, and that splitting the ratification violated the Constitution.

"By splitting the vote, you mutilate the entire constitutional structure,” De Stefano said. “You turn an appointed body that is supposed to be ratified by bloc into an elected one [….] The people who voted at the GA knew next to nothing, saw no nominating papers, and were not campaigned to. For better or worse, the Constitution does not designate [the BoD] as an elected position.”

Board of Directors delivers updates on Special Committee on Anti-Semitism

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(Leanne Young / The McGill Tribune)

The Students’ Society of McGill (SSMU) Special Committee on Anti-Semitism is in the planning stages of developing its recommendation for the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD) and Legislative Council. On March 14, the committee will advise the Board and Council on how to best confront anti-Semitism on campus and make Jewish-identifying students feel safer.

At the Nov. 26 BoD meeting, Director Jonathan Glustein, a member of the committee, presented the progress made. The committee has held two meetings thus far, on Nov. 14 and 20.

“We agreed on a timeline for the recommendation to be presented to both Council and the Board,” Glustein said. “[The committee] set about five different goals that they wanted to pursue. One of them is a definition on anti-Semitism, another one is […] a review of anti-Semitism historically at McGill.”

SSMU Legislative Council approved the committee at its Nov. 29 meeting, per a motion moved by Glustein. While intended to combat anti-Semitism on campus in general, the committee was created specifically in response to allegations of anti-Semitism at the Fall 2017 General Assembly (GA) on Oct. 23, as well as an open letter. The committee was struck shortly after McGill University announced its own investigation into the events of the GA on Oct. 25.

The committee includes representatives from various Jewish student cultural groups at McGill, including Hillel McGill, Chabad McGill, Independent Jewish Voices McGill, Am McGill, Israel on Campus, and the Jewish Studies Students Association, each of which have been given a single seat.

Although the committee has yet to establish how it will proceed with developing its recommendation, Noa Levin, the committee representative for Am McGill felt that establishing the body was an important first step.

“The General Assembly […] left a lot of people feeling very concerned and confused,” Levin said. “The fact that [the] committee exists [means] there’s already a lot of Jewish students in a room that are now being empowered to affect their experience on campus.”

However, not all groups represented on the committee agree with its methods. Tali Ioselevich, a member of Independent Jewish Voices McGill (IJV), an anti-Zionist Jewish student group, said that in IJV’s view, the events of the GA—namely, Director Noah Lew’s failure to be ratified—were not anti-Semitic.

“The claim that Noah Lew was not ratified because he’s a Jewish student […] is not substantiated,” Ioselevich said. “If you look at the people who voted against Noah Lew at the GA, a lot of Jews voted against him. And [that] was not only [because of] his stance on [Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions against Israel], but also the fact that he was not transparent in his dealings with SSMU, which are totally legitimate reasons to vote someone down.”

IJV was given a seat when the committee was struck at Council, but was only informed after IJV president Hani reached out to Glustein.

“There are actual cases of anti-Semitism on campus, and those should be addressed,” Ioselevich said. “But the committee itself was created directly in response to the [events of] the GA, which were not in and of itself a case of anti-Semitism.”

Ioselevich nonetheless affirmed the importance of IJV’s role on the committee.

“It’s very important for us to have a seat at the table,” Ioselevich said. “Otherwise, […] it seems to me that there would be a homogeneity in the perspectives, and if we’re not there, it might as well be an open and shut case of, yeah, [the events of the GA] were anti-Semitism.”

Despite differences within the committee, Levin expressed optimism about its effectiveness.

“Obviously, people have different political opinions, but we are all committed to making this campus a safe and encouraging place for Jewish people, so I’m confident that we’ll be able to work together,” Levin said.

Chabad McGill, Hillel McGill, and Israel on Campus did not provide comment by press time.

McGill administration conducts investigation into divisive SSMU GA

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(Kendall McGowan / The McGill Tribune)

On Oct. 25, McGill University announced the launch of an investigation into whether anti-Semitism was present at the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Fall General Assembly (GA). The announcement, sent via email to students and staff, was a response to allegations of religious prejudice at the GA when three of 10 members of the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD) were not ratified, one of whom—Noah Lew—was Jewish.   

Former McGill professor of Education and ombudsperson Spencer Boudreau is the lead investigator looking into the allegations. Since the beginning of November, he has interviewed all of the SSMU executives and other student representatives present at the Fall GA.

In an interview with The McGill Tribune, SSMU VP External Connor Spencer explained her initial concerns that the inquiry lacked authenticity and integrity.

“A conversation that we were having was [that] there’s a direct conflict of interest for one institution to be investigating another institution,” Spencer said. “It’s very weird for McGill to be investigating SSMU, especially [given] last year, when [the administration threatened] to cut our funding around this issue. There was an initial pessimism as to what the point of the investigation was, and whether or not there was going to be bias in the investigation because of how the administration handled [the Sadikov investigation] last year.”

However, as the inquiry has progressed, Spencer has found her concerns to be somewhat abated.

“Everyone was wary when McGill launched the investigation as to its intent and scope […] but I think the folks that have spoken to [Boudreau] are feeling a little more reassured,” Spencer said. “It seems like he is legitimately trying to figure out whether the claims of anti-Semitism are true.”

The Oct. 25 email also announced the creation of the Principal’s Task Force for Respect and Inclusion in Campus Life. The Task Force will operate independently of the investigation, broadly examining freedom of expression, respect, and inclusivity on campus, and make recommendations for university improvements in these realms in a final report on April 27, 2018.

Dean of Science R. Bruce Lennox and Associate Professor of Law Nandini Ramanujam, co-chairs of the Principal’s Task Force on Respect and Inclusion in Campus Life, spoke at a press conference on Nov. 21 about preparations to launch the Force’s operations in the Winter term. The Task Force, which will include both graduate and undergraduate students, will attempt to evaluate the state of respectful debate on campus by conducting campus-wide surveys of students, faculty, and campus organizations. Based on the surveys’ results, the Task Force then intends to delegate specific working groups, host a town hall meeting, and draft a list of concrete recommendations for the university.

“The overlap between respect and inclusion is respectful debate, respectful discussion, and I think the Venn diagram of those two entities is where we're going to operate,” Lennox said. "How does one apply the concepts of freedom of expression in an academic environment?”

Lennox clarified that, although the Task Force was announced alongside the investigation, this timing was coincidental, with the Task Force not exclusively concerned with anti-Semitism or particular groups or events.

“There was a coincident announcement of an investigation into [the Fall GA], and there was an announcement that a task force would be struck, whose definition was not specific at that time,” Lennox said. “But the task force did not arise from that event, it’s been an ongoing discussion [….] We will assure you that this isn’t about an incident or a crisis, it’s about who we are as an institution.”

Ramanujam also sees the Task Force as an effort to address McGill’s long-standing interests in inclusivity. According to Ramanujam, it is the product of an ongoing conversation among faculty members that dates back generations.

“I see our work not as reactive but proactive,” Ramanujam said. “We are all a part of the collective university space, the Faculty of Law has been talking a great deal for a long time about safe spaces, inclusive spaces, respectful spaces, and […] so I see this [Task Force] as something that is neither the beginning or the end of this process.”

With the goal to alleviate any concerns over inclusivity on campus, Lennox is confident that McGill suffers from no extraordinary challenges in cultivating a culture of inclusion and respect compared to other universities. She hopes that the University can take a leadership role in providing space for safe discussions.

“[University] is where our society expects people to be able to express their point of view, to debate it, and to listen, so that as a construct has incredible value,” Lennox said. “We have a tremendous leadership responsibility, and I think McGill in particular, because of who McGill is, with diversity in our student population, our staff, our faculty, [is] in a sweet spot for dealing with this challenge.”

 

PGSS shows low voter turnout in DPS existence referendum

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(Calvin Trottier-Chi / The McGill Tribune)

On Nov. 17, Elections SSMU, the body that oversees SSMU voting procedures, announced the Daily Publication Society’s (DPS) successful existence referendum results, which showed an irregularly low voter turnout from Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) members. The successful vote ensured that the DPS, which publishes both Le Délit and The McGill Daily, will continue to collect non-opt outable student fees to operate for the next five years. But according to PGSS Financial Affairs Officer Matthew Satterthwaite, 1000 graduate students’ names were missing from the list of students that Elections SSMU emailed the referendum poll to. These students were thus not informed of the upcoming to vote.

“I do not believe this mistake [of not including PGSS members] was intentional, as the DPS did not know how to properly administer a referendum,” Satterthwaite said. “Groups seeking an official PGSS referendum must go through the PGSS Council. The PGSS effectively had no idea this referendum was happening until the ballot came out.”

Previous PGSS referenda have maintained a voter turnout rate of 14 per cent or higher. However, according to the Elections SSMU email on Nov. 17 announcing the DPS referendum results, 725 out of the 7,636 graduate students voted, a turnout rate of nine per cent. Satterthwaite noted that the percentage of graduate students who voted on the DPS referendum is even lower because not all members of PGSS are eligible to vote on DPS affairs.

“If you look at the voter breakdown in the email that was sent, it says there are about 7,600 registered PGSS [members], but we’re actually closer to 8,600 members,” Satterthwaite said. “The membership of the PGSS is not exactly the membership of the DPS.”

Satterthwaite believes that PGSS voters were also unaware about the upcoming referendum because the DPS did not present at the PGSS Legislative Council. However, the society was under no obligation to present at Council, since its referendum was not under PGSS.

“[The executives] had no idea that graduate students would be voting for [the DPS existence referendum], so most other graduate students wouldn’t have known,” Satterthwaite said. “Normally, [referenda] are brought up at our Council, so that the [Post-Graduate Student Associations] PGSAs can transmit the information beforehand. The PGSS [executives] and our Council were not informed about [the referendum], and so that whole line of communication was cut.”

The low voter turnout followed Elections SSMU’s choice to restart voting after the first day on Nov. 13. During the referendum, the DPS accidentally provided Elections SSMU with an outdated list of PGSS members eligible to vote from the summer, which excluded graduate students who enrolled for the Fall 2017 semester. As a result, Elections SSMU suspended the original ballot and created a new one using an updated list of eligible PGSS voters that the DPS supplied.

SSMU Deputy Elections Officer Isaac Levy, who supervises SSMU electoral officers and administers elections and referenda, first noticed the problem with the email list.

“From what we have observed and heard from some students who contacted us, some of the PGSS members did not receive emails from our Simply Voting email blasts when the mass emails were sent out,” Levy said. “We are currently looking into the matter from our end to figure out why this may be.”

In an email to The McGill Tribune, Marc Cataford, chairperson of the DPS Board of Directors, explained that a number of accidental factors resulted in an incomplete PGSS voter list.

“The error itself is a mix of a total absence of institutional memory on referenda on our end [and] on Elections SSMU’s end, and after talking with someone from PGSS, they didn’t seem to know the specifics of how it really worked either,” Cataford wrote. “In any case, at no point was there foul play and the error was not of bad faith. The second I was notified of the error, I got in communication with PGSS, with Election SSMU, and with people at McGill to […] make sure that the election can be conducted in a fair manner that gives all of our membership a voice.”

 

SSMU Legislative Council discusses committee on governance reform

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(Kendall McGowan / The McGill Tribune)

At its Nov. 16 meeting, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council passed the Motion for Nominating Committee of the Board of Directors to Undertake the Selection of Future Board Members Anonymously and the Motion to Amend the Standing Rules to ease the deadlines for presenting motions. Faculty Councillor Anthony Koch was nominated to sit on the Special Committee on Anti-Semitism, which will report to Council in Winter 2018.

Ollivier Dyens and Council talk Governance reform

The first major topic of the session was governance reform. Ollivier Dyens, deputy provost (Student Life and Learning), spoke to Council on this matter before the call to order.

Dyens explained that responsibility for student mental health falls not only on the university, but on students, who must work to cultivate a supportive environment for each other. To Dyens, clarifying SSMU’s constitution is essential to reducing conflicts between students. He suggested hiring an external party to lead the charge in reforming SSMU’s governance structure.

“You guys are going through a turbulent period,” Dyens said. “Your own constitution seems to be, at certain moments, unclear [….] As a university, we want to see SSMU survive. We want to see SSMU together, and being a place where things are healthy for students and debate.”

Council later debated the Motion to Call a Special Referendum Period, which proposed an additional referendum later this month to consider a question regarding constitutional reforms. As the mover of the motion, SSMU Vice-President (VP) External Connor Spencer conceded that the question should be moved to the Winter 2018 Referendum, following concerns over voter burnout within SSMU’s membership. In the interim, she called for Council to commit to starting a larger conversation on governance reform in order to prevent similar issues from recurring every year.

“We need to start having a very large and very long conversation about what governance at SSMU is, and what we’re expecting, and where all the holes are,” Spencer said. “I would really like to pitch […] a commitment to start a larger conversation about [SSMU’s governance structure within…] this body, because we’re all the elected representatives from all the different faculties, and we can make sure our students’ voices are heard within that.”

Following the debate, rules were suspended to add a Motion to Investigate a Committee on Governance Reform, which carried. Council decided that executives and councillors would first look into the options available for starting the process of governance reform, and then determine whether creating an internal committee would be the best solution. VP University Affairs Isabelle Oke explained her stance that more research is necessary before a committee is formed.

“Committees as a first step are one option, [but] I don’t think it’s our only option moving forward,” Oke said. “What I’m suggesting is some kind of mandate, for somebody […] to put together all of the options that we can actually take as a council moving forward, and what resources we’re working with as well.”

Motion for selecting future Board of Directors members anonymously passes

Council voted to remove applicants’ names from applications for future Board of Directors (BoD) seats, through every step of the nominating process until the interview stage. The motion passed with 27 votes in favour, with an amendment added to remove other identifying information irrelevant to the applicant’s qualifications for the position.

While discussing this motion, Council members advocated for the additional need to create a broader policy on hiring processes, which it does not have. SSMU is seeking to fill an equitable hiring position to investigate current hiring practices and alter them for accessibility and transparency.

“This [motion] is an interim step to try and deal with all of the cases that come to the Society now until we have the research that will help us have more rigorous and sustainable practices in our Society,” Oke said.

 

Students challenge SSMU Board of Directors’ authority to add GA quorum Referendum

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(Kendall McGowan / The McGill Tribune)

On Nov. 6, Meara Kirwin, U2 Arts, and Gregoire Beaune, U3 Arts, filed a petition with the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Judicial Board (J-Board) against the Board of Directors’ (BoD) decision to add a question to the Fall 2017 Referendum. The question asks whether students would like to raise the quorum of General Assemblies (GA) to 350 students. The petition states that the question did not undergo the processes required in order to be added to Referendum by SSMU’s Internal Regulations of Elections and Referenda and by its Constitution. The Referendum polling period runs from Nov. 8 until Nov. 10 at 5 p.m..

Referendum questions are added through either a motion passed at a GA, a motion by SSMU Legislative Council, or through the submission of a petition with at least 100 student signatures to the SSMU Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) at least 14 days prior to the Referendum period. A petition to raise the quorum of GAs with 468 student signatures was created by Engineering Senator Tre Mansdoerfer and former Engineering senator Alexander Dow, both U3 Engineering. However, it was not submitted to the CEO before the Oct. 25 deadline for Referendum questions. A motion to raise GA quorum was not presented during the Fall 2017 GA on Oct. 23 or at a Council meeting this semester.

A statement released by the petitioners explained that raising the quorum would make GAs obsolete.

“The constitutional amendment put to referendum […] would have a significant effect on the General Assembly’s ability to consistently meet quorum and conduct business,” the petitioners wrote. “Instead, because proper procedure and deadlines were not followed, most students have been left unaware that this question is coming to referendum in the first place.”

In an unprecedented move, the BoD added the Referendum question through its own motion, the Motion to Bring General Assembly SSMU Constitutional Changes to Referendum, which was passed at the BoD’s Oct. 29 meeting. At the board’s Nov. 5 meeting, SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva explained why the BoD chose this course of action.

“We consulted legal just to see what our obligations were as a corporation under the [Companies Act] in Québec law, and what they said is [that] our [Internal Regulations] are not necessarily representative of what our real legal obligations are,” Tojiboeva said. “In reality, under article 91 of the [Companies Act], it’s only the Board that can approve questions that would go to change the constitution. It’s only the Board and the members that can make a new mandate or put a question to a vote for the membership.”

As a company registered in the province of Québec, SSMU is regulated by the Québec Companies Act, which takes precedence over the SSMU Constitution and Internal Regulations. Article 91 of the Québec Companies Act says that the directors of a company may repeal and make amendments to the by-laws of a company as long as those changes are confirmed at a general meeting of the members called for that express purpose.

“Basically, what our legal counsel said is that [Referendum questions] cannot come unilaterally from the membership as it was done before,” Tojiboeva said.

In an email to The McGill Tribune, Kirwin, one of the petitioners, explained what led her to challenge the BoD’s decision to add the Referendum question.

“We are concerned about the power currently held by the Board of Directors—an unelected body whose power has been increased through constitutional amendments in the past few years,” Kirwin wrote. “This referendum question was brought by the BoD unconstitutionally, and as SSMU members, we must insist that constitutional modes of decision-making are upheld, and that power is not taken from the General Assembly and consolidated at the top of the ladder.”

 

Open letter to SSMU executives denounces Fall 2017 General Assembly

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(Ava Zwolinski / The McGill Tribune)

On Oct. 27, former Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) engineering senator Alexander Dow, U3 Engineering, submitted an open letter to the McGill administration in response to the Oct. 23 SSMU General Assembly (GA). The petition, which expresses SSMU members’ dissatisfaction with the GA’s failure to represent the greater student population, received a total of 468 signatures. Tre Mansdoerfer, U3 Engineering, also contributed to writing the letter.

The petition calls for the 100-student quorum currently constitutionally required for SSMU GAs to be raised substantially. Despite the fact that 100 students is less than 0.5 per cent of the undergraduate student population, the GA rarely reaches quorum unless controversial topics are on the agenda. In response to the letter, the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD) voted on Oct. 29 to add a question of raising quorum to 350. Referendum questions are typically approved via motion by the SSMU Legislative Council or through a vote at the GA.  

The first concern that the letter addresses is the allegations of rising anti-Semitism and  disrespect for ideological differences on campus, especially in light of Noah Lew’s failure to be ratified as a member of the BoD. Dow believes polarization within SSMU has caused tension among the student body.

“What we ideally want is [for SSMU] to remain a place where we can respect student opinions,” Dow said. “Universities are where we share and exchange ideas, not cut out ones that we don’t believe.”

According to the second section of the letter, the goal of raising quorum is to prevent any vocal minority from unilaterally controlling and undermining democracy in GA votes in the future. If quorum is not reached, the GA becomes a consultative forum, which cannot pass resolutions. However, the minutes from the forum can be attached to SSMU’s online referenda, which have higher voter turnouts.

In 2012, SSMU amended its constitution so that all resolutions passed at the GA must later be sent to an online vote for ratification. Given that many students are unable to attend GAs, the open letter calls for the Oct. 23 GA motions to be online referenda questions and for the GA to be a consultative forum.

To SSMU Vice-President Student Life Jemark Earle, the nomination of all 10 directors, including those who failed to secure a seat at the BoD, should be included in an online vote.

“To elect directors to SSMU, we need a greater percentage [of students] to weigh in on this matter,” Earle said. “I think that all [nominations] should go to referendum.”

The number of signatures on the petition, which exceeds the number of students who were present at the fall GA, demonstrates many students’ distaste for how important governance decisions are made. Earle says he commends the initiative of the letter and hopes to see the outlined concerns pushed toward resolution.

“I love when discussion happens,” Earle said. “As an executive, I think it’s well within my mandate to […] represent all opinions on campus. I think that the [disapprovals] outlined in the open letter to SSMU executives were all valid [points].”

For Annalise Patzer, U0 Nursing, the open letter holds SSMU accountable for hostility she’s seen on campus.

“Considering [how anti-Semitism] is happening at a level that is supposed to be the student representation for our university, [my Jewish friends] were concerned about how they are supposed to navigate university,” Patzer wrote to The McGill Tribune. “I just think the open letter is calling McGill and SSMU to take responsibility for this negative culture and image and harm they have created on campus.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the petition called for quorum to be raised to 350. In fact, the petition only calls for the quorum to be raised substantially while the motion to the Board of Directors calls for the quorum to be raised to 350. The Tribune regrets this error.

SSMU Legislative Council votes against endorsing Daily Publications Society

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(Gabriel Helfant / The McGill Tribune)

At its Nov. 2 meeting, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council voted against endorsing the Daily Publications Society’s (DPS) upcoming existence referendum. Additionally, Vice-President (VP) External Connor Spencer and three faculty representatives moved for a special extension of the Fall 2017 referendum period. The Council also passed a motion mandating that SSMU contest Quebec’s Bill 62.

DPS Referendum question endorsement

Legislative Council deliberated Spencer’s motion to endorse a “yes” vote on the upcoming DPS existence referendum question posed to all downtown campus undergraduate students, which would renew the DPS’ non-opt-outable fee of $6 per undergraduate student per term and $3.35 per graduate student per term. The DPS relies on student fees to publish both Le Délit and The McGill Daily. As is mandated for clubs with non-opt-outable fees, a referendum question is posed every five years asking students to support the DPS’ existence. Although the Legislative Council previously endorsed a “yes” vote for the Winter 2013 DPS existence referendum, the current motion failed to pass, with 10 votes in favour, 12 votes against, and two abstentions.

The motion emphasized the importance of a diversity of independent publications on campus, with Le Delit being the only francophone paper at McGill. It also highlighted the fact that a free and critical press is necessary for SSMU’s democratic legitimacy.

The Daily and Le Delit have constantly been at all of our [meetings],” Spencer said. “It’s really important that we, as an institution, support those that are holding us accountable,”

Some council members opposing the motion worried that, by encouraging students to support the DPS, SSMU would appear to be endorsing The McGill Daily’s editorial views, including support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Some argued that it was inappropriate to encourage all students to renew a fee that would support The Daily given its political stances. SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva voted against the motion, believing that SSMU should not take a stance on the DPS’ existence.

“Seeing that this is a student referendum, we should let the students make their own individual decisions, and vote on the referendum as they wish,” Tojiboeva said. “I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable endorsing The Daily specifically, because we shouldn’t endorse a paper that marginalizes certain voices on campus.”

Throughout the debate, several councillors questioned the impartiality of the student press. Nora McCready, a news editor at theThe Daily, emphasized the DPS’ role as an educational institution in the absence of a formal journalism program at McGill.

“Both The Daily and Le Delit provide a space on campus for students to explore the field of journalism,” McCready said. “and even if there are people in the room who might disagree with The Daily's current editorial line, that’s something that has shifted through the years that it’s been in existence.”

Online voting on the 2017 DPS existence referendum opens Nov. 13.

Motion to Call a Special Referendum Period

Citing the importance of SSMU’s accountability to students, Spencer moved to extend the Fall 2017 Referendum period in order to add a question for a motion proposing sweeping amendments to SSMU’s constitution. Although the question was submitted in accordance with all submission regulations, it was not approved for the normal Referendum period due to concerns about the scope and legality of its proposals.

“[Last year] a lot of changes to the Constitution and [Internal Regulations] took power away from Legislative Council and the GA and give them to the [SSMU Board of Directors],” Spencer said. “[We’re] trying to […] give those powers back.”

SSMU General Manager Ryan Hughes explained at a previous meeting of the Board of Directors (BoD) that the motion requires further approval from the BoD and SSMU’s legal team. Extending the Referendum period from Nov. 8 to Nov. 30 would allow time for this process.

Tojiboeva also presented the BoD’s main reservations on approving the question.

“The Board doesn’t feel like it’s rightful to bring it right now, because it’s a bit rushed,” Tojiboeva said. “The [Board’s] recommendation was [to] have more consultations with the student body, and then bring it back to the Winter 2018 Referendum [….] If we don’t do it properly then, moving forward, we won’t be able to have a proper constitution that’s coherent.”

Council tabled the special Referendum motion until its next meeting on Nov. 16.

 

SSMU Board members to remain past the end of their term

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(Elli Slavitch / The McGill Tribune)

On Oct. 28, the Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) Judicial Board (J-Board) released an interim order suspending the results of the Oct. 23 General Assembly (GA) vote ratifying the nominations for the new Board of Directors (BoD), which would begin sitting after Nov. 15. While this vote is normally done as a bloc, ratifying all nominations at once, SSMU Vice-President (VP) External Maya Koparkar motioned to divide the question, which passed, allowing GA attendees to ratify each nomination separately. The vote ratified the appointments of seven of the 10 individuals nominated.

The interim order was a response to a petition filed shortly after the GA by Jonathan Glustein, a current director on the BoD who was not up for reappointment. In the petition, Glustein claimed that the motion to divide the ratification question violated SSMU’s Constitution. In their interim conclusion, the J-Board ordered that all of the new Directors, including those who were unratified, be allowed to sit on the BoD from the start of their term, Nov. 15, until the Judicial Board renders its final opinion.

In his petition, Glustein asked the Judicial Board for the interim order to submit the list of 12 directors to be ratified as a bloc via online voting in the Fall 2017 Referendum, which opens Nov. 8.

In the interim order, however, the Judicial Board explained that they were unable to introduce the Referendum question Glustein requested. Referendum questions must be initiated by the Legislative Council or SSMU members, according to section 14.1 of the SSMU Constitution; additionally, they must be submitted two weeks before the voting period opens, which would have been Oct. 25.

“Even if [the Judicial Board] renders a final decision in favour of the unratified Directors, they could not make up the time they would have sat on the Board had the Board of Directors been ratified as a bloc,” the decision read.

However, at a BoD meeting on Nov. 5, SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva announced that upon consultation with legal counsel, the current members will remain on the BoD past the Nov. 15 term until the J-Board case is concluded.

“We have spoken to counsel and it seems that the current Board could be held over in the case that a Judicial Board decision cannot be issued by the Nov. 14 deadline,” Tojiboeva said.

Koparkar, who is listed as the main respondent on Glustein’s petition, is friendly to his suggestion and willing to go back to a bloc vote. In an interview with The McGill TribuneKoparkar explained that she motioned to split the vote because of concerns that the BoD was not truly democratic.

“The idea of having the Board members in the future on separate ballots was something that people seemed amenable to,” Koparkar said. “Because of how we voted on it at Legislative Council, and in talks with the executives and [Speaker], I was under the impression that people would be ok with it [….] I think we all just thought it would be an easy way of legitimizing the votes for each Director.”

According to Koparkar, the section of the SSMU Constitution primarily under consideration in this case is section 6.5, which mandates that nominated Directors be ratified by SSMU members through referendum or at the General Assembly. It also states that the whole must be in accordance with sections 6.2 and 6.3, which concern BoD composition and Director qualifications. Koparkar said the reference to “the whole” is the main point of disagreement.

“Some people took [“the whole”] as meaning a bloc vote, and some took it as meaning by the whole of the General Assembly,” Koparkar said. “I think that’s where things get confusing, and it’s the Judicial Board’s job to interpret these things.”

Former Council speaker Jad El Tal was listed in Glustein’s petition as a second respondent, but he resigned on Oct. 27. As the petition was filed against him solely in his professional capacity, he is no longer necessarily a part of the case. Additionally, although Koparkar made the initial motion to divide the vote on BoD ratification, debate was interrupted, and the motion to divide which ended up passing at the GA was made by a SSMU member, Chantelle Schultz, U3 Arts.

At the Nov. 5 BoD meeting, Glustein explained that naming Koparkar as a respondent was a deliberate and legally necessary choice.

“The reason why the VP Internal is listed as a respondent is because the idea was brought by the VP internal in the first place, as well as the fact that somebody needs to be named in a SSMU capacity in the Judicial Board case,” Glustein said.

A Fall Reading Week presents both benefits and drawbacks

News/SSMU by
(Arshaaq Jiffry / The McGill Tribune)

In the years following the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council’s November 2015 motion in support of a Fall Reading Week, McGill students are still pushing for its implementation. According to SSMU Vice-President (VP) External Connor Spencer, the administration abandoned the concept shortly after the proposal, citing the university’s rigorous curriculum and leaving the student body without answers or an outcome.

“Often the response the administration gives is that because we are a research-intensive school, we can't afford to take time off and still keep the challenging level of our studies,” Spencer said. “But many of the U15 [Canada’s 15 research-intensive universities] schools have been able to implement a Fall Reading Week in the last few years.”

SSMU VP University Affairs (UA) Isabelle Oke has worked with the McGill Senate on this project, and considers the implementation of a Fall Reading Week a top priority.

“The deadlock that we find ourselves at is based on the fact that some concessions will have to be made in response to scheduling constraints, [like] holidays, exam schedules, and the presence of Labour Day at the beginning of the year,” Oke said.

According to Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens, in 2015, then registrar Kathleen Massey addressed whether or not the university could implement a Fall Reading Week. Massey created a survey, formed an ad hoc committee, and consulted with several students, staff, and faculty members regarding a potential break.

One option these parties discussed was adding two or three days to the break Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. However, this would require beginning the semester before Labour Day, thus forcing students living off-campus to sign leases starting in August, and pay an extra month of rent. It would also reduce the number of days between the end of classes and the start of final exams. Another option would be to shorten the holiday break, which is already shorter than that of many other North American universities.

“Having a more dense exam period would mean much more stress on all students,” Dyens said. “While I really pushed for this at first, I also realized through the process that the correlation between a Fall break and better mental health is not that clear in the literature. And I really did not want to create more stress during the exam period.”

Idil Uner, U3 Arts and floor fellow for La Citadelle residence, believes that there is a lot at stake for first-years transitioning to university in the debate over whether to implement a Fall Reading Week.

“As a floor fellow, I see the benefits of having a Fall Reading Week even more,” Uner said. “First-years are not used to having no breaks and studying for weeks on end [….] First year is an overwhelming period and it is unfair of McGill to expect students to navigate it easily without some sort of off time.”

Curiosity Delivers.
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